How to Be More Mindful by Connecting with Your Senses
Consciousness is dependent on senses and signals. We receive information from the world around us, send this data to our brains, and get messages back to control movement. There’s a huge amount of information flowing through our brains at any time, and it all comes from just five senses. We see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and taste and smell with our mouth and nose. We can also touch the world around us, with every part of our body capable of intimate connection.
In this article, we’ll review the concept of mindfulness and how it’s linked with sensory perception. When we slow down and learn to appreciate our environment, we learn to notice the little things and feel more connected to the big, wide world.
How is mindfulness linked with your senses?
Mindfulness is the act of paying attention. Both a cognitive skill and a way of being, it links external stimuli with internal thoughts and emotions through the act of perception. Our five senses are key to this process, with the deliberate detection of stimuli helping us to step out of our minds and into the present moment.
When you understand, respect, and pay attention to your five senses, you’re more likely to feel connected and whole:
Visual perception is fundamental to human consciousness and survival. Our eyes receive a huge range of information, from the size and shape of objects to colours, shadows, and light. Sight is the leading sense for most people, and it’s often taken for granted. To connect with your sight on a deeper level, you need to slow down and take everything in with your conscious mind. Learn to see the natural world with fresh eyes, pay attention to the structure of trees and mountains, and expand the limits of your perception by looking at things very large and very small.
Auditory perception or hearing comes from detecting vibrations in the air. This normally takes place inside our ears, but the skin can also perceive changes in pressure. Human beings have a very acute sense of hearing, with our ears long used to detect predators, hunt prey, and communicate with friends and family. We also have a creative relationship with sound, with music widely enjoyed as a social and spiritual tool. If you want to connect with the world around you, learning to listen deeply is a great place to start. Listen closely to the music of nature, from the way trees sigh in the wind to the joyful singing of birds and the natural rhythm of the waves.
Our perception of taste or flavour occurs in the mouth with our taste receptors. Many of these receptors are located on the tongue, which is covered in thousands of tiny bumps. Unlike some of our other senses, which can identify an entire spectrum of data, taste is about just five things: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and savouriness. One way to connect with your sense of taste is to slow down and pay attention to what you eat. While you can do this anywhere, enjoying good food in nature with people you care about is a great way to reconnect.
Olfaction is the special sense through which smells are perceived, and it has many important functions. Throughout human evolution, our smell has helped us to identify edible foods, find suitable places to camp, and even find appropriate sexual partners. The sense of smell is also rather mysterious, as it’s connected to our emotions and memories. Once again, going outside and enjoying nature is the best way to appreciate this marvellous sense. Do some deep breathing exercises in nature, learn to appreciate the subtle smell of different environments, and take some time to stop and smell the flowers.
Touch, or the somatosensory system, is the network of neural structures in our bodies and brains responsible for haptic perception. Unlike the other senses, which are largely localised, we can experience touch with our entire body. There are four mechanoreceptors in the skin, which measure different vibrations and pass information onto our nerves. If you want to reconnect with your sense of touch, you can walk barefoot outside, roll around on the grass, or spend some special time with the person you love.
Reconnecting with our five senses is a simple and incredibly powerful way to be more mindful. When we step outside, slow down, and pay attention to our bodies, we can learn to appreciate the world how it really is. Getting outside in nature is free and easy, so what are you waiting for?